US Mobile Carriers Appear to Have Made “Empty Promises” As They Sell User Location Data

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) believes that large companies, which are operating as mobile carriers, cannot be trusted about user location data as they are selling and reselling the data. Even as mobile operators promised to stop following such practices, they have continued to do so.

Nearly a year ago, a scandal of US mobile carriers selling user location data was exposed. Following this, all the leading mobile operators in the country promised not to share or sell users’ data. However, this pledge turns out as fragile as a butterfly wing.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden is apprehensive about the carriers, who pledged to discontinue these practices. The senator said, “Major carriers pledged to end these practices, but it appears to have been more empty promises to consumers.”

Mobile Operators Continue to Sell User Location Data

According to a TechCrunch report, “New letters published by the FCC show that despite a year of scrutiny and anger, the carriers have only recently put an end to this practice.”

“We already knew that the carriers, like many large companies, simply could not be trusted. In January it was clear that promises to immediately “shut down,” “terminate” or “take steps to stop” the location-selling side business was, shall we say, on the empty side. Kind of like their assurances that these services were closely monitored — no one seems to have bothered actually checking whether the third-party resellers were obtaining the required consent before sharing location data.”

“Similarly, the carriers took their time shutting down the arrangements they had in place, and communication on the process has been infrequent and inadequate.”

What the letters bring out?


Like T-Mobile, AT&T also promised to phase out this practice in June 2018 but ended most of in March 2019. The carrier continues to sell data for fraud prevention.


The company pledged to discontinue the practice in May and June 2018 but stopped it in March 2019.


Promised to discontinue contracts in June 2018.

Sprint is still selling location data. The company says it will stop selling to aggregators at the end of this month; however, it will keep selling the data to a breakdown service and a lottery compliance entity.


No longer selling data to aggregators from November 2018.

Still selling data to a roadside assistance service until March 2019.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel posted these letters online; apparently, Jessica was frustrated by the delays and lack of communication from carriers selling user location data.

Further, she said that the violation of customer privacy was unacceptable.

Summing up…

False promises to secure user privacy and data have exposed the malicious intentions of mobile carriers, who want to make more money. Even as the law prevents them from selling and reselling location data, flouting the authority reveals the darker shades of mobile companies.

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